The towels that Blue Ridge Textile Manufacturing makes are not exactly the "his" and "hers" variety. The company's towels end up in industrial environments across North America and are typically covered with grease and grime at the end of each working day. Textile service companies then pick up and clean the soiled towels and return them to their customers. Even with daily washings, the towels are not long for this world.
"Depending on how the towels are being used, they have a life span of about nine to 10 washings. In any case, there is a pretty high turnover rate for the towels we manufacture," says Mike Samples, controller at Blue Ridge Textile Manufacturing.
In addition to towels, Blue Ridge products also include aprons, laundry bags, and fender covers for auto mechanics. The company also warehouses and distributes uniforms, but the material for those garments is cut and sewn in Mexico. Blue Ridge Textile Manufacturing has over 1,000 customers across the country and the company has warehouses in Blue Ridge, GA and Los Angeles. Its parent company, Coyne Textile Services (Syracuse, NY), is also a client. With 40 locations in 26 states, Coyne Textile Services cleans soiled garments and reissues new ones.
Sizing Up The Project
As annual revenue reached about $25 million in 1998, Blue Ridge Textile Manufacturing decided it is now ready to implement a new manufacturing and distribution system at its facility. Samples, who is serving as the point man for the project, plans to have the new system up and running in 1999. He is using two main criteria to narrow the field of potential vendors.
First, the system must be a scalable NT solution. Secondly, it must be specific to the apparel/textile industry. Ultimately, the solution will be integrated with the company's financial system.
"We want an industry-specific solution because it will make the system much easier to use. Everything we produce has a certain color, size and style. The inventory number in the system must contain all that information," says Samples. "We could use a generic system, but order entry would be more difficult. An industry-specific solution would result in fewer mistakes and better customer service."
Moving Toward EDI
Samples is also looking beyond the implementation of a new manufacturing and distribution system. Currently, the company receives all its customer orders via phone or fax. However, that will change in the future. "In the long run, we will have the ability to take orders using EDI (electronic data interchange) transmissions or the Internet," relays Samples.
However, Samples does not think electronic ordering will immediately eliminate the traditional methods. Some of the company's smaller customers will be slower to migrate to electronic ordering. Says Samples, "It would be unreasonable to think we would stop taking orders by fax and phone. But, it would be reasonable to assume those types of orders would drop significantly."
The plan at Blue Ridge Textile Manufacturing is to implement a new manufacturing and distribution system before considering other projects, such as electronic ordering. "We are going to take things one step at a time. But, in 18 months, we should have Internet and EDI solutions in place," concludes Samples.